5 thoughts on “Delta II”

  1. So is Bill Schindler, the NASA Delta Project Manager from Thor-Delta 1 in 1960 and continuing for more than 100 flights. I first witnessed Bill’s work in the fall of 1960, when my Mom and I went out in the back yard one moonless night, and watch the satellite Echo 1A pass overhead. I was six at the time, and hadn’t yet had my life changed watching Alan Shepard’s launch. But in 1987, Bill and I became colleagues at TRW Ballistic Missiles Division, and set to work on commercial space launch schemes along with our mutual boss and friend, Dr. John Thole.

    Bill was the quintessential “steely eyed missile man” in appearance. He sported a 1960 crew cut until his death in 1992. He was jovial, a pleasure to be around, but also a natural rocket engineer who once used thumbtacks and a loop of string to lay out a Delta mission transfer orbit scheme on his dining room table.

    Following the failure of a Delta in the early 60’s, he retired to a bar on Cocoa Beach where he met a salvage diver. Bill had had a hunch about an electric motor causing a series of Delta failures, but had no data to prove or disprove it. He offered the diver $100 to see if he could locate the rocket and the suspect motor. Sure enough, a few days later the diver returned with the suspect motor in hand. It showed that once the vehicle had gotten high enough, the motor would overheat and shed solder. Sometimes it would fail, sometimes not. But it was redesigned.

    Bill was also the only PM to have launched into polar orbit from Cape Canaveral. I asked him how he did that, since the rocket went over Cuba. He replied “We just flew out a little way, and pulled a hard right.”

    “No, no!” I said. “I mean, how did you ever get permission?”

    “Oh, that,” he said. “I figured I couldn’t, so I didn’t try.”

    Bill quit when NASA tried to get him to shut down Delta in the late 1970’s (they wanted no competition for Shuttle), and joined some of his former customers in the satellite world. He was an amazing man in many respects, as were so many of those who worked on the early launch programs.

  2. Quite an impressive list of accomplishments. Thirty years is a long time, and finishing with 100 consecutive successful flights is remarkable. Congratulations and thank you to the team.

  3. The Delta’s first stage engine, the RS-27A, was in some ways comparable to SpaceX’s Merlin 1D: same propellants, nearly the same thrust. But the latter shows how technology has marched on: higher Isp, very much higher T/W, throttleable, restartable, and (I suspect) much cheaper.

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